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After his studies in mathematics and physics in Halle (Saale) and Erlangen, receiving his Ph. D. in mathematics at the University of Erlangen and being guest lecturer at universities in the UK and United States he became in 1960 lecturer in theoretical physics at the university of Stuttgart. He became professor emeritus in 1995. He has done research mainly in non linear optics (his specialities are laser physics, particle physics, statistical physics and group theory in abstract algebra. Professor Haken developed his institute in a relatively short time to be an international center for laser theory, after which Theodore Maiman in May 1960 built the first experimental laser. In 1962 Professor Haken could present a rather final laser theory, which brought his institute international recognition. The interpretation of the laser principles as self organization of non equilibrium systems paved the way at the end of the 1960s to the development of synergetics, of which Professor Haken is recognized as the founder. For his work he received the Max Planck medal in 1990. He is the author of several books, including a book with an introduction in synergetics, as well as author of a series of books in this field.
He has since been involved with J. A. Scott Kelso in developing the HKB model a mathematical formulation that quantitatively describes and predicts how elementary forms of coordinated behavior arise and change adaptively as a result of nonlinear interactions among components.